Cloud computing 101: Frequently asked questions

3 years ago   •   4 min read


There are a number of terms and concepts in cloud computing, and not everyone is familiar with all of them. To help, we’ve put together a list of common questions, and the meanings of a few of those acronyms. You can find all these, and many more, in our learning resources.

What are containers?

Containers are packages of software that contain all of the necessary elements to run in any environment. In this way, containers virtualize the operating system and run anywhere, from a private data center to the public cloud or even on a developer’s personal laptop. Containerization allows development teams to move fast, deploy software efficiently, and operate at an unprecedented scale. Read more.

Containers vs. VMs: What’s the difference?

You might already be familiar with VMs: a guest operating system such as Linux or Windows runs on top of a host operating system with access to the underlying hardware. Containers are often compared to virtual machines (VMs). Like virtual machines, containers allow you to package your application together with libraries and other dependencies, providing isolated environments for running your software services. However, the similarities end here as containers offer a far more lightweight unit for developers and IT Ops teams to work with, carrying a myriad of benefits. Containers are much more lightweight than VMs, virtualize at the OS level while VMs virtualize at the hardware level, and share the OS kernel and use a fraction of the memory VMs require. Read more.

What is Kubernetes?

With the widespread adoption of containers among organizations, Kubernetes, the container-centric management software, has become the de facto standard to deploy and operate containerized applications. Google Cloud is the birthplace of Kubernetes—originally developed at Google and released as open source in 2014. Kubernetes builds on 15 years of running Google’s containerized workloads and the valuable contributions from the open source community. Inspired by Google’s internal cluster management system, Borg, Kubernetes makes everything associated with deploying and managing your application easier. Providing automated container orchestration, Kubernetes improves your reliability and reduces the time and resources attributed to daily operations. Read more.

What is microservices architecture?

Microservices architecture (often shortened to microservices) refers to an architectural style for developing applications. Microservices allow a large application to be separated into smaller independent parts, with each part having its own realm of responsibility. To serve a single user request, a microservices-based application can call on many internal microservices to compose its response. Containers are a well-suited microservices architecture example, since they let you focus on developing the services without worrying about the dependencies. Modern cloud-native applications are usually built as microservices using containers. Read more.

What is ETL?

ETL stands for extract, transform, and load and is a traditionally accepted way for organizations to combine data from multiple systems into a single database, data store, data warehouse, or data lake. ETL can be used to store legacy data, or—as is more typical today—aggregate data to analyze and drive business decisions. Organizations have been using ETL for decades. But what’s new is that both the sources of data, as well as the target databases, are now moving to the cloud. Additionally, we’re seeing the emergence of streaming ETL pipelines, which are now unified alongside batch pipelines—that is, pipelines handling continuous streams of data in real time versus data handled in aggregate batches. Some enterprises run continuous streaming processes with batch backfill or reprocessing pipelines woven into the mix. Read more.

What is a data lake?

A data lake is a centralized repository designed to store, process, and secure large amounts of structured, semistructured, and unstructured data. It can store data in its native format and process any variety of it, ignoring size limits. Read more.

What is a data warehouse?

Data-driven companies require robust solutions for managing and analyzing large quantities of data across their organizations. These systems must be scalable, reliable, and secure enough for regulated industries, as well as flexible enough to support a wide variety of data types and use cases. The requirements go way beyond the capabilities of any traditional database. That’s where the data warehouse comes in. A data warehouse is an enterprise system used for the analysis and reporting of structured and semi-structured data from multiple sources, such as point-of-sale transactions, marketing automation, customer relationship management, and more. A data warehouse is suited for ad hoc analysis as well custom reporting and can store both current and historical data in one place. It is designed to give a long-range view of data over time, making it a primary component of business intelligence. Read more.

What is streaming analytics?

Streaming analytics is the processing and analyzing of data records continuously rather than in batches. Generally, streaming analytics is useful for the types of data sources that send data in small sizes (often in kilobytes) in a continuous flow as the data is generated. Read more.

What is machine learning (ML)?

Today’s enterprises are bombarded with data. To drive better business decisions, they have to make sense of it. But the sheer volume coupled with complexity makes data difficult to analyze using traditional tools. Building, testing, iterating, and deploying analytical models for identifying patterns and insights in data eats up employees’ time. Then after being deployed, such models also have to be monitored and continually adjusted as the market situation or the data itself changes. Machine learning is the solution. Machine learning allows businesses to enable the data to teach the system how to solve the problem at hand with machine learning algorithms—and how to get better over time. Read more.

What is natural language processing (NLP)?

Natural language processing (NLP) uses machine learning to reveal the structure and meaning of text. With natural language processing applications, organizations can analyze text and extract information about people, places, and events to better understand social media sentiment and customer conversations. Read more.

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This is just a sampling of frequently asked questions about cloud computing. To learn more, visit our resources page at

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